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US drivers still hurting from costs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While gas prices are starting to ease around our region, drivers still are feeling a pinch in their wallets, according to a new survey from AAA.

The national travel agency released its annual "Your Driving Costs" study this week. It found that owning and operating a vehicle is costing 2 percent more this year than last year.

The study says the average cost to own and maintain an average-sized sedan rose 1.17 cents this year to 60.8 cents per mile, for a total cost of $9,122 a year for drivers who travel 15,000 miles annually.

Small sedans were the cheapest to maintain and own — at 46.4 cents per mile, or $6,967 a year — while four-wheel-drive SUVs were the most expensive at 77.3 cents per mile, or $11,599 annually.

The study looked beyond vehicle financing and also evaluated maintenance, fuel, tire, insurance and depreciation costs.

"Many factors go into the cost calculation of owning and operating a vehicle," said Christina Rollyson, supervisor of the AAA Charleston District Office. "Drivers need to consider more than their monthly payment when they are planning to buy a car."

Maintenance costs saw the biggest jump year over year. 

Those costs rose 11.26 percent to 4.97 cents per mile on average for sedan owners. AAA attributed the jump to significant increases in labor and parts costs for some models and a major price increase for extended warranties.

Insurance costs increased 2.76 percent, or $28, to $1,029 annually. That estimate is for a low-risk driver with a clean record.

Fuel costs were up 1.93 percent to 14.45 cents per mile for the average sedan owner. AAA noted that while average year-over-year fuel costs increased 3.84 percent, that was offset by small improvements in vehicle fuel economy.

The one cost that didn't go up: tires.

That cost remained flat at 1 cent per mile due to a leveling off of raw material and other supply and shipping costs for tire makers.


Following up on last week's column on Century Aluminum: The company on Tuesday issued a WARN notice for its Hawesville, Ky., plant.

Century reported that unless it can negotiate a favorable power contract for the plant — which is newer and has greater capacity than its Ravenswood smelter — it will close Aug. 20, resulting in a layoff of 750 workers.

For someone who covered the 2009 shutdown of the Ravenswood plant, the press release sounded like deja vu.


Finally, I think West Virginia University's University Relations department got a lesson in timing this week.

The day after Attorney General Patrick Morrisey released his report on WVU's sordid Tier 3 media rights affair involving IMG College, West Virginia Media and West Virginia Radio Corp., the WVU College of Business and Economics announced the next speaker in the school's Distinguished Speaker Series will be none other than West Virginia Media chairman Marty Becker.

That's either bad timing or WVU's way of pouring salt onto John Raese's wounds.


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